Lab-Grown Bones Successfully Implanted in Pigs

New York Times June 22, 2016  by Nicholas Bakalar


Above an image of regenerated bone grown from stem cells

The pigs, all 14 of them, are doing fine. Considering they’d been retrofitted with bone grown in a laboratory, that came as a pleasant surprise.

“The pigs woke up, and a half-hour later they were eating,” said Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University. “We thought they would be in pain. But no, they’re doing great.”

Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic and her colleagues have managed to create living bone from stem cells. First, they made a CT scan to create a 3-D image of each pig’s jaw. From cow bone, they sculpted a “scaffold” — a three-dimensional copy of the pig bone.

They put the scaffold in a nutrient solution along with stem cells extracted from the pigs. The cells attached to the scaffold, forming a new bone identical to the original. Then the researchers implanted the new bone in each pig. They reported their results in Science Translational Medicine.

There was no problem with rejection, and the new bone integrated with the pig’s own tissue. Clinical trials in humans, however, are at least three years away.

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